My Dearest Dad,
As I try to pen down some sort of tribute for you, I can only think of beginning by telling you how much I miss you and just how much I love you.
You have always been the most important part of my entire life, and you will remain in my heart for all of eternity. Now that you are no longer with us, I know that my life just isn’t ever going to be the same without you. You were everything to me and did so much for me. You have been my guardian angel since I was a child and there will never be a day that I will not think about you and pray for you. Upon hearing the news of your passing, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I am in pain. The sort of pain that has taken a grip of me and seems determined to suffocate me.
This is by far the most devastatingly heart-ripping and life-altering incident I’ve ever experienced. And I am aware that the heartbreak of losing you may never leave me. While I hope that time is a great healer, I don’t think I will get over this agony. My greatest fear has always been how I would be able to navigate life without you. But as much as I love you, I know that Allah loves you more. The concept of Tawakkul, the Islamic concept of the reliance on God and trusting in God’s plan will have to be my comfort and healing. I will remain prayerful, faithful, grateful and comforted knowing how much you positively affected my life, our family and the lives of so many others.
Dad not only were you, my father, you were my greatest role model, my hero, my inspiration, and my rock. Even though every day I communicated to you how grateful and lucky I was to have had you as a father, I feel as if you didn’t know how much I appreciated everything you represented in my life.
As I sit here writing what will be the hardest article I have ever written, I want to tell you Dad, just how much your struggles and hard work have been appreciated by your “little girl.” I would want the world to know how much of a good father you have been and I would want the strong bond between us to serve as an inspiration to all. I’m writing these words with the hope that it would be worthy of you.
Dad, I had come to learn that in the real world, where domination, bigotry, oppression, dishonesty, and corruption intertwine with all aspects of our lives, there are no easy, uncomplicated sources of inspiration. But there are lessons. I have always looked to you for those lessons about how to struggle against immorality and dishonesty, as well as for lessons about the structures of prejudice and chauvinism that I was confronted with in a highly dogmatic and sexist atmosphere. In your example and lessons, I have been able to find both inspiration and warning, inseparably tied.
When I think of your story as you have often told me, at first glance, it looks deceptively like a bootstraps tale of hard-won success and class mobility. But I think your resolve, opportunities and identity were shaped by much more than that. And in your biography that we were writing together, the world will be able to see your story through your eyes. Dad, I promise you that I am now more determined to finish that project and publish your book.
Your story: Oh yes, I remember every bit of your story…
You were born in Bichi, Kano state on April 1st 1937. Your mother, Mallama Habiba, was a religious young lady from Musawa, Katsina state, who passed away when you were just a baby. Your father, Mallam Ahmadu, never remarried after the loss of your mother and you were sent to your mother’s village in Musawa to live with your aunty, Hajiya Alje, a true woman of substance who instilled a sense of independence, confidence and focus on you.
You grew up in a very hard, rural environment, the youngest of three children in a family constantly struggling to make ends meet. You were sent back to Bichi to attend school and along the way inherited a healthy distrust of the autocratic and feudalistic actions of both the Colonial and the Native Northern Governments. You had always told me that, even as far back as then, you felt a driving and throbbing need to stand up for the downtrodden and poor in the society. It was also then you realized that you had what I like to call, ‘the gift of the gab.’
Though you came of age during the transition for independence of Nigeria, you never lost your gut sense of egalitarian ethics. You strongly believed in democratization, women empowerment, and freedom of speech. Decades later as I was becoming politicized, you would confess that, you would forever remain a socialist; convinced that the staggering inequalities of our society were fundamentally wrong and we each had a duty to speak out against it and change it. I suspect that this core ethic contributed to your acceptance of so many things, amongst which, surprisingly, is feminism.